Local Race Team Crew Member Pleads Guilty To Seeking Sex With Minor

Chris Merchant (Photo: Rhode Island State Police)

A longtime local race team crew member from Canterbury plead guilty Wednesday to traveling to Warwick, R.I. in January to meet what he thought was a 14-year old boy for sex.  

Chris Merchant was arrested at a hotel in Warwick, R.I. on January 25. Merchant traveled to the hotel expecting to meet a 14-year old boy, but he was actually part of an ongoing investigation by the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. 

On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence the 33-year old Merchant plead guilty to one count each of travel in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sex with someone he believed to be a minor and transporting child pornography.

Merchant has been a crew member for a multitude of Connecticut based short track racing teams for more than a decade.

From the Providence Journal

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney John McAdams, Merchant on Jan. 19 reached out to a state police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigator portraying himself as a 14-year-old boy on Grindr, an app that bills itself as the largest social networking app for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Merchant said he was 30 and asked the agent if he was a police officer.

The agent said no and Merchant’s messages quickly turned sexual, with Merchant sending an image of his erect penis and asking for a photo in return, McAdams said. The communications moved to kik, a messaging app in which content is stored only on the device being used.

Merchant asked the agent to send videos and images and suggested that they meet at the Radisson hotel in Warwick. Merchant sent a video of himself masturbating, as well as a photo of himself. He told of doing “everything” with a younger male, McAdams said.

Merchant reserved a hotel room with a king-sized bed and whirlpool and said he would bring condoms and “poppers,” a liquid nitrate that can cause euphoria and is known to be used in sexual encounters.

Merchant was apprehended after arriving at the hotel. A search of Merchant’s car found condoms, a vibrator, lubricant and the “poppers” according to investigators. They also found a video file on his cell phone of 6 and 8-year-old boys having sex.

When asked by Chief Judge William E. Smith if he agreed to the facts presented by investigators Merchant replied: “Yes your honor.” 

In addition to his longtime involvement in the Southern New England short track racing scene, Merchant was also a vice president and coach with the Plainfield (CT) Little League. 

Merchant will be sentenced on June 28. He faces a minimum of five years in prison with a possible maximum of 30 years. 


  1. Let’s see how the Sugar Coat Police handle this one.

  2. Geoff Fabbro says

    Par for the course at the Speedbowl.

  3. Lock him up!!!!

  4. @geofffabbro, you are a moron. Nowhere in the article is the Speedbowl mentioned. It states “several local race teams”. I bet if the teams names were listed you would find he made appearances at other tracks aside from the Speedbowl. Regardless of where this pedo prowled and played it is NOT the racetracks fault. He will do his time. It is no secret how pedos are treated in prison and justice will rightly be served by one Bubba or more at a time..

  5. It could happen at any race track,not just the speedbowl.

  6. Crazy in NY says

    Two posts in and we’re Fabbro-cating drama. Beautiful…. a moron is right.

  7. sour grapes of justice says

    Dick Jr is right criminals and predator’s are all around us in our daily lives and yes at the race track. some are even our friends. you believe people would associate with this guy if they new what he was up to???? . they didn`t ….he will be punished …plead guilty. bemer however is going to trial.. admitted to engaging in physical activity with young men but as a john/end user. waiting for verdict or last minute plea deal on trafficking etc . so we wait .justice will be served . unless you have already tried and convicted him due to the media coverage …

  8. Hillary 2020 says

    Wait, he didn’t work on cars at Stafford or Thompson?

  9. I find the conduct involved with this despicable but what does this have to do with racing??? I read the content of this site for info on our local short track scene. I have no interest in who has been arrested locally and for what charge. Is it just me , or would the readers of RaceDayCt be also interested in the Local Police Report?????

  10. This has what to do with speedbowl? Because he went there before. With that logic I guess I’ll say damn little league! Put down the pipe before you hit the keyboard next time.

  11. Since the Bemer/Speedbowl was brought up… Shawn, any latest news on the trial?

  12. Sure people would associate with him even if they knew what he was up to. Just look in the news right now… Trump, Manafort, Joe Arpaio, Judge Roy Moore, Mike Lee, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Jerry Falwell, Cheney, Kennedy (from Louisiana), and there are plenty more that associate with them. It’s bewildering how people, especially women, flock to associate with Trump. Along with the Sugar Coat Police, there are the Deliberate Ignorance Security Guards. Even after all that was exposed about Trump, people still voted for him. And even after these two years, and the next two years, people will still vote for him. Why? Because they are just like him. So consider this, Donald Trump is your son, you raised him… how does that make you feel?

    Look at the Tommy Barrett Jr. situation. Pretty good driver, but had plenty of signs that he could be trouble and a liability to the sport. Some history of getting into trouble. It was known and finally came pouring out around the DUI arrest. Some of you, the Sugar Coaters, said it was just normal stuff for a kid that age, boys will be boys. Yeah, well, so much for that. You were willing and ready to ignore all that.

  13. The Bemer jury is picked. Trial to begin April 1.

  14. Hillary 2020,
    Over the years Chris Merchant worked with teams and in roles that took him to many tracks around the Northeast.

  15. darealgoodfella,
    I’ve heard possible trial start dates of March 27 or April 1. CT Judicial lists next date in court as March 27.

  16. RichO,
    I know we’ve been over this a few times in the past concerning other legal issues. This is a website that covers the local racing scene in Connecticut and beyond. “Covering” doesn’t just mean writing about how many laps are turned in a feature. I cover the entire racing scene, and sometimes that includes news that happens away from the track involving people who are part of the sport. This is an individual who has been deeply involved in the local racing scene for more than a decade and was well known among many competitors and teams. And while it may be news some don’t want to read or don’t want to see associated with local racing, it’s still news that involves what this website covers.

  17. They’re approaching the starter stand…..wait for it……steady now…… and there’s the green flag!!!
    An article on terrible behavior and justice served for ONE person and already we have a take down of the Speedbowl, claims of perverts all around us, complaints of inappropriate content, the Bemer trial. DGF customary attacks on Trump, DGF attacks on any that support Trump and poor Tommy Barrett can you imagine.
    Tommy Barrett one of 28 entrants for the first Stafford Open is May by the way and glad he’ll be there.
    It’s anarchy so join in.

  18. Chester the Molester says

    This guy was always a weirdo and now has been revealed to be a low life of epic proportions but don’t bs these people Shawn. This guy was also one of your harshest critics over the years on social media. If this was one of your cronies it wouldn’t even be mentioned.

  19. Chester the molester says

    This guy was always a weirdo and now has been revealed to be a low life of epic proportions but don’t bs these people Shawn. This perv was also one of your biggest critics for years on social media. If this was one of your cronies it wouldn’t even be mentioned.

  20. Geoff Fabbro says

    Guess none of you knew him as an Official at the Speed bowl then but many had run ins with the kid when he thought he ran the place from the first day he worked there. At least I took the heat of dadummy today.

  21. Chester,
    “Don’t BS these people?” There’s nothing made up here. All facts, no BS. As far as whether or not something ends up here as news based on who it is I’ll say this:
    1. As long as Twitter has been around this person who is the subject of this story has been critical of just about anyone of any authority in local racing. He’s been critical of Thompson Speedway management/ownership for years, critical of Stafford Speedway ownership/management/officials for years. Critical of NASCAR officials. Critical of dozens of drivers and teams. His Twitter feed is a years long laundry list of ranting and criticisms of people involved in local racing. I’d refer to a tweet posted on Aug. 15, 2015 when he said: “nothing makes me happier then knowing i pissed someone off #MakeMyDay.” So yeah, if I happened to be lumped into the group with Thompson management, Stafford management and NASCAR management for being in the crosshairs of this guy on Twitter, I must have been doing something right because that’s pretty good company to be in.
    2. You say “If this was one of your cronies it wouldn’t even be mentioned.” Really? You do realize that at the time of his arrest New London-Waterford Speedbowl owner Bruce Bemer was advertising three of businesses on my website? I’m pretty sure you remember me reporting plenty about his arrest and the further issues it continued to cause for the Speedbowl despite the fact that his businesses represented a very significant revenue stream for my business? I’d say if I was going to make choices about reporting or not reporting on the legal issues of certain people I would have chosen to not report on someone who represented a significant portion of income correct?
    3. I challenge you to give one example of any person who is part of the Southern New England racing scene that had a significant legal issue that I chose not to report on this website. I’ll be honest, I won’t hold my breath waiting for your response because there are none.

  22. Chester the molester says

    Not disputing the facts in the case against this scum bag with the bs comment. The bs comment is directed towards you trying to make it like you didn’t jump at the chance to pay him back for all his critsism of you over the years. Judging by the length and quickness of your response I think I’m right. Maybe you’re correct that you have reported on anyone that has ended up on the wrong side of the law over the years but that’s the problem. Stick to reporting about racing. Not some pos that gives it a black eye.

  23. Chester,
    I’ll reference you to the comment earlier today about the choice to report issues in reply to RichO. This is a news website covering local racing. It’s not a fan site. It’s not a site for only covering positive news. Good, bad, whatever, the news is reported. You say “stick to reporting on racing.” That’s a pretty general statement. So I shouldn’t report on anything that doesn’t happen in the controlled state of an actual live racing event? If someone who raced 40 years ago passes away should I not report on that because it’s not actually about racing? If Mike Stefanik announced tomorrow that he was going to take up professional boxing should I not report that because it’s not about racing, even though it involves someone who is pretty well known in racing? Or is that you’re just saying I shouldn’t report one single segment of news away from the track, meaning negative stories? I can’t control the choices people make who are involved in the sport. You seem to be backpedaling like a coward now after making a pretty low accusation about how I do what I do. Again, you made a pretty bold and clearly pointed accusation that if this involved one of my “cronies” it wouldn’t be reported here. So I’m asking you to back up that accusation with some evidence of truthfulness. If you’re going to make accusations about how someone does something at least have some facts or evidence to back up that accusation or don’t throw it out there. So again, tell me about my “cronies” that I’ve covered up for in the past that would have you made you make that accusation.

  24. Jerry Fascione says

    Im sorry but I don’t see the connection to racing in ct, the guy if guilty should be hung but what hell does it have to do with racing ? It doesn’t belong here. I thought this site was for racing news not the local police blotter. I’m disappointed this is the direction you think this site should go, you dropped the ball here unless you just want to give all the ladies a place to bitch.

  25. Chester the molester says

    Ok you win you have reported on every negative thing to happen in auto racing even on your own cronies. There feel better. You don’t get it and you never will about what real racing people want to read about. Peace out.

  26. Chester,

    You say: “You don’t get it and you never will about what real racing people want to read about.”

    Translation: You want this website to be a public relations arm of short track racing. All positive. All wonderful. All the good stories. All cheerleading blessings telling the world every single day that short track racing is the greatest thing in the history of the world and it currently is in a state of greatness that is like Unicorns and Rainbows and smiles for everyone. I get that. I’ve been told that by certain individuals since the day I started this site just short of about seven years ago. I do get there’s a faction of people in the sport that do only want that because instead of facts and honesty and actual real journalism they would rather public relations spin. I get that part of it is because most websites or blogs out there that do cover local racing are exactly that, operated by fans with the bulk of their content being produced by people who have zero journalism experience and zero understanding of what ethical journalism is even about. I spent 19 years at the Hartford Courant as a print journalist. I covered everything from the NFL, to top level NCAA football and basketball, to world championship boxing and the NBA. I learned what ethical journalism was about and I said from day one starting this website that I would carry with me the same ethical standards that existed for me as a reporter for the Hartford Courant. I haven’t changed that stance, and after seven years of doing this I don’t plan on changing that stance.

    And here’s the reality, if what I do isn’t what you want as you say, or what real racing people want, the traffic here doesn’t seem to indicate that. You personally obviously are a voracious reader here. Over the past two years, under various screenames like “Lou Grant” and “Racing With Hey Zeus” and “Penalizer” and “The Bowl 4 Life” and “The General” and “Jack The Ripper” and “Desperate Housewife” and obviously today’s “Chester The Molester” and a multitude of other cute and creative names, you’ve left more than 100 comments. That doesn’t seem like someone that doesn’t want to read what’s being published here since you sure have responded to plenty of it.

  27. sour grapes or journalism says

    if this case isn`t related to racing than how can Bemers be??? ..is it because he (bemer) is a business owner? this perverts primary activities were racing, baseball, and stalking children .. its a story involving the racing “community” get over it

  28. Chester the molester says

    Personally I have no problem with the negative side being reported but about the racing on the track or say the never ending drama with the Speedbowl as an example. Not some disgusting perv who was a crew guy and got arrested.

  29. If it’s me a some jerk that’s been a thorn in my side is convicted of a felony why shouldn’t I chuckle a bit as I write the story and hit enter? That doesn’t change the fact it happened and was reported professionally.
    Aside from the petty sniping about what is and is not appropriate the bigger picture is this. In all of the Northeast many have tried and almost no one has been able to make a go of a racing site let alone one that has commercial viability over an extended period of time. Most are well intended but the creators find out the time commitment is overwhelming keeping it fresh. It goes stale and dies from lack of interest. Racedayct is updated DAILY!!!! Show a little appreciation.
    This isn’t the NY Times. If Shawn wants to print an article about growing tomato’s that;s his choice. Actually I’d wouldn’t mind that at all with the garden planting just around the corner. But I digress.
    I’d suggest besides those that want everything sugar coated there’s another bad seed in the racedayct garden present writer excepted. Guys that bring nothing to the table except a chip on their shoulder and complaints. Complaining about articles that aren’t strictly related to racing but say nothing about racing.
    If you know where the train is going, you’ve ridden in it before and you can ride the train for free just do this. Don’t start complaining half way through the trip that you don’t like the destination and the seats are uncomfortable. And if you can’t manage that don’t be surprised when the conductor throws your whiny ass off the train.

  30. So a guy gets arrested with overwhelming evidence and it makes the news cycle. Some people call it news, some call it a suspicious hit job. Now I’m not talking about the Mueller investigation. Same situation here. Some people just can’t stand the truth. Reporting the news is not negative. What the people did was negative. If you don’t want to be exposed for all your bad deeds, don’t do the bad deeds. When you get caught, expect to be exposed. Don’t complain about being caught like those that caught you doing bad stuff did something wrong.

  31. Speedhive says

    Thompsons opener is coming up in a few weeks make sure your subscription to Race Monitor is up to date so you can write one of your twenty paragraph diatribes critiquing every drivers skill level and the quality of every teams equipment.

  32. Speedhive (or Chester The Molester as was your screename for all your previous comments this evening): Certainly an interesting dynamic here. A few hours ago you arrived here with all sorts of righteous indignation about what racing news actually is and went so far as to accuse me – without a shred of evidence – of protecting certain people in racing from bad publicity. You remember that? Now you come on here waxing demeaningly about other people who comment here and how they comment?
    You come here and try to act like you’re some sort of voice of educated reason for setting the bar for what short track coverage should be and how this web site should be structured and maintained and how people should comment. And the funny part? You don’t actually possess the courage or backbone to put your name on any of your pie in the sky accusations or rantings about other people, and even worse, you change your screename with virtually every comment you leave. It’s as if you’re such a massive coward that even just using the same fake name here consistently terrifies you that someone might actually find out who you are and you would have to stand behind your words.
    People like you are a funny breed, know-it-all’s when they’re anonymous and can be hardo tough guys, but deep down literally terrified to the core to actually be known because they don’t possess the courage to stand behind their statements. It’s hilarious and pathetic and sad all at the same time.

  33. Sorry Shawn I didn’t mean to ruffle the feathers of one of the same five people that comment on your articles. Peace out for real this time.

  34. Lights Out says

    All of you sound like a bunch of children no matter how construct your ridiculous arguments. I thought this page was about racing but it seems I was wrong. Instead this is a constant outlet for some sort of journalistic freedom writing that can be seen as unprofessional. Regardless where this person spent his time, who he worked with at the track, this still remains NOT about racing rather a personal mission to create “news” where a copy and paste article can’t be found. Sorry Shawn, you are in the wrong here for posting an article we all could have easily gotten from other sources where it belongs as much of the “news” posted here but some of your adlib to the articles is positive, I admit, but this is tasteless and completely useless to the racing community.

  35. Lights Out,
    Good to see another person who doesn’t actually have the spine to use a real name telling me how journalism works and how to run this site. Thank you for your advice, obviously your credentials as an anonymous troll really stand up. And no, I’m not shocked at all that the buddies of the story subject here are using anonymity as a cowardly way of coming to his defense.

  36. Sharpie Fan says

    Time out! Let’s back up. For those of you who say this has nothing to do with racing, let’s think about that for a moment. And think about how many children come into the pits at Waterford every weekend. Not all parents may have caught this on the local news but they see it here. And I bet that they are all praying that their kid never came in contact with this creep! Consider this a public service announcement then.

  37. Empty vessels. That’s the term I was searching for. Stafford Regular, Lights Out, Speedhive, Chester the Molestor and those sorts of comments. They could show a copy of their birth certificates and be named Pope Francis and it wouldn’t have any more content.
    If screen ID’s are a problem just make the rule real names. Or use Facebook’s log it process.
    In defense of screen ID’s I’d say it’s about content. What did the screen ID say and was it based on anything that is credible? Is it interesting, funny or both? Was is backed up with data or stats? Can others relate to what was said because they saw it as well.
    We all have our favorites and mine are are Fast Eddie, Rob, Barry, Elect, Humphry and Crazy in NY. They all are funny at times and interesting. I don’t need to know their names I know their persona and it’s interesting. DGF has a persona that isn’t my cup of tea but what he says has value……..on occasion. Others who specialize in one or two liners trashing the topic du jour I don’t even remember.
    Point is you have to say something meaningful. Simply making some vague complaint about what is or is not racing news worthy, the length of a comments, or everyone knows that guy is a wreck artist are all just curmudgeonly complaining to no end. And frankly pathetic since no one is forcing you to read them nor stopping you from saying what’s on your mind. Empty vessels complain because they have nothing meaningful to say.
    Race Monitor is a valuable tool any fan can use to enhance their enjoyment of racing. Those that would poo poo it generally can be lumped into the cave man group that think higher education is for subversives and climate change is a conspiracy. To truly understand any race you have to see it in person, review the Race Monitor data then watch the replay several times. Anything less is simply noticing a few things. The cave men will tell you what they noticed was the most important thing cause they know what they saw. They’re usually myopic and too vane to admit they need glasses.
    If you’re only capable or only have the attention span to write a couple lines you can do it and not be an empty vessel. Study Elect and he can give you the key to a great two or three lines that have content. If you’re referring to me or anyone else writing long comments that you don’t like there’s a few things you can do. First don’t read it. If that’s too much for you to grasp email Shawn Courchesne and ask the person be banned. Enough people do it and he may consider it. Otherwise you can bite me cause if the only comments were the comments of you empty vessels the comment section would have no value.

  38. Fast Eddie says

    The info below is only my opinion as a race fan in New England. I find it incredibly ironic that people who do not have a racing website or advertise on a racing website battle so hard to tell the owner and primary operator of this site what he should do and how he should do it. This is Shawn’s website to report on what he feels is relevant to the racing world. Whether we like or agree with its content is our choice, but let’s show a little respect and class when commenting directly to the person responsible for the best news source for Modified and northeast racing in general.

  39. Doug,
    The problem with using the Facebook comment interface or requiring registration with a valid e-mail is that immediately virtually ALL comments will be gone. Unfortunately, the way of the world today. I experimented with the Facebook comments early on with the site. It was a disaster. And even if you force people to register with a valid email and still allow them to use a screen name that doesn’t identify them publicly, they still want nothing to do with it. The choices are have no comments at all, force registration/Facebook comments and have virtually no comments, have moderated comments or allow a free for all of unmoderated comments. Many places these days are choosing no comments at all because it’s just easier to manage. I think the beauty of the web is allowing interaction and people to have voices, so I’m not for no comments at all. Unfortunately, an unmoderated comment section I can assure you would go off the rails in less than 24 hours. Another sad fact. So we live with a moderated anonymous comment section here. It is what it is, lots of trolls and keyboard tough guys who say a lot of things they would never have the courage to put their name to or actually say to someone’s face. For now, I think it’s what we have to live with.

  40. Thanks Shawn.
    Clearly I like things as they are.
    You empty vessels see Fast Eddie’s comment. That’s content. That’s a guy the has value and that virtually everyone respects. Not based on a name but the class and wisdom he demonstrates every time he hits enter.
    So who is Racedayct’s audience. We that read it and make comments or the sponsors of the site? We sure as heck aren’t making Shawn any money. Our only value to revenue the site needs to exist as far as I can see is the clicks we represent that can be shown to sponsors. That makes Fast Eddies comment all the more relevant.
    You empty vessels should be honored the Courchesne spent so much time responding and explaining things that are so glaringly obvious to people that can see past their nose. Racedayct walks a delicate line between promotion of the sport that sponsors want and reporting facts. Empty vessels will never get how difficult that is nor appreciate the guy walking the line.

  41. For those of you that posit that this has nothing to do with racing…

    Please pay attention to everything else in the news. There are no limits.

    Do the parents of the kids this guy was coaching have a need to know about this guy? If I was a parent and this guy was coaching my kid, you better believe I better have known and been told about this guy. If anyone tried to shield this guy from parents, those that were doing the shielding are just as vile.

    As long as it was a secret and nobody knew, the guy could carry on and participate as if nothing was wrong. But once it all comes out in the open, he’s no longer welcome. He’ll never coach kids again. Wonder why? There’s a reason why there is a sex offender registry, so the public knows where people like this are so the public can protect themselves.

    Reports like this need to be everywhere. Reports like this need to be here where the fans, customers, participants and others will see it, to be able to protect themselves.

  42. For those of you that say that this does not belong here, why does reporting the truth scare you?

  43. The people who think this shouldn’t be mentioned must not have kids that wander the pits at the bowl. This could have easily gone under the radar, in 2 years you may see him wandering the pits again, but this time you’ll know to watch out.
    Who knows, maybe, JUST MAYBE, this could be a deterrent to similar folk that walk among us.

  44. Jerry Fascione says

    Shawn I’m against these type of articals because it’s not racing news. I enjoy your articals I just dont agree with this one. And as in my previous comment I use my real name.

  45. Dareal even I have to agree with you this time , but don’t get use to it , and Shawn keep up the good work

  46. Elect, there’s hope for you. Not much, but some.

  47. I think we are all missing the most important breaking news to ever drop in the comment section of Race Day CT. Mike Stefanik is taking up professional boxing. It was on the internet, so it must be true. I like the Rhode Island Brawler against Mcgregor in the 4th round. Race season cant get here soon enough.,,Oh and the Stafford Limited late model car count still stinks.

  48. Shawn, thanks for reporting on this. As many have said creeps are all around us, and many are never caught. This guy was, and due to your reporting on it, I doubt he’ll ever be welcome at any racing facility again. So thanks again. To everyone else, keep your eyes open and your kids close. This isn’t the world we grew up in anymore. And please if you see something that seems odd, say something.

  49. Geoff Fabbro says

    The amazing thing is this was reported by every news outlet back in January and no race fans realized it until yesterday? Under the radar?

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